Saturday, August 8, 2009
One reckless man . . . One passionate woman.
Enter the world of Mary Balogh--the glittering ballrooms and vast country estates of Regency-era England, where romance, with all its mystery, magic, and surprises, comes vibrantly alive.
It was a perfect morning in May . . .
Neville Wyatt, Earl of Kilbourne, awaited his bride at the altar--when a ragged beggar woman raced down the aisle instead. The cream of the ton saw him stare, shocked, then declare that this was his wife! One night of passion was all he remembered as he beheld Lily, the woman he'd wed, loved, and lost on the battlefield in Portugal. Now he said he'd honor his commitment to her--regardless of the gulf that lay between them.
Then Lily spoke her mind . . .
She said she wanted only to start a new life--wanted only a husband who truly loved her. She had to leave him to learn how to meet his world on her terms. So Lily agreed to earn her keep as his aunt's companion and study the genteel arts. Soon she was the toast of the ton, every inch a countess fit for the earl, who vowed to prove to his remarkable wife that what he felt for her was far more than desire, that what he wanted from her was much more than . . . One Night for Love.
I really enjoyed this romance. An oldie but goodie, but new for me, my first romance by Mary Balogh - a name I've certainly heard of, but had never read anything by her yet. It was very well done, slow developing, the plotline has a massive condundrum and just when you think it's a hopeless case, the story changes gears and gets even more interesting!
This is the story of Lily Doyle, a young woman, obviously down on her luck that is determined to see someone. It's a mystery, we don't know exactly what is happening with her, or her story, but she must see her Neville. She has some friends, the Harris', who have obviously taken care of her recently and are worried for her, but they see her off in a public carriage (this is during Regency England times) so that Lily can go on this mission of duty. We follow Lily to an estate in England, an Abbey, this is her final destination to meet the man she has been thinking of, searching for, the man she has been trying to make her way to for almost two long, harrowing years. Yet, we don't know what this is all about...
Meanwhile, Neville is an Earl, living at the Abbey and he's about to get married to Lauren, a perfect young English woman and they will live happily ever after. The whole ton has come to see the wedding which is to be a spectacular event...
As these two scenarios come together, the scene is set and it's like watching a train wreck about to happen. It turns out Lily is Neville's long lost wife, returned from the dead. She literally arrives at the church (a la The Graduate) to stop the wedding. Neville is overcome in seeing her, admits to all she is his long lost wife and well, naturally, all hell breaks loose. The wedding is called off, apologies made, and so begins the big predicament of what do to about Lily, the daughter of a dead sergeant soldier that Neville had been in the Peninsular Wars with and hastily married, bedded and lost all in the period of 24 hours two years earlier in order to save her in case she was captured. Having papers saying she was an officer's wife would protect her in case of capture. As it turned out, Lily did not die, as Neville believed (he had been shot and wounded in the head as well at the time) and had been captured by Spaniard partisans, used by their leader for seven months as his woman and then finally set free to make her way back to Neville in England.
Lily is an unusual girl. Free spirited a child of nature, she is illiterate, has no idea of how to be a lady -- a countess no less -- and the mistress of a large estate. Neville immediately accepts her as his wife and wants society and all to accept her, but it's not that easy. Lily has scars and nightmares and insecurities too great to be able to deal with this new life. Although their hasty marriage was a love match - was that one night they had together enough to get them through this new beginning? Just when all seems hopeless there is a trap door for her. It turns out the minister that married them was killed shortly afterwards as well, and was not able to register their marriage so it was legal. Neville insists on their marrying again, but Lily leaves him, realizing that she cannot ruin his life this way, even though she loves him and he loves her. It sounds more simple than it was in the book, it was all very well done and thought out, it was such a dilemma and I was relieved actually that Lily refused his offer to remarry. She was like a fish out of water at his ancestral home and dealing with his hostile sister and jilted fiancee, and the constant presence of his mother, the dowager countess who is less than thrilled by this turn of events.
What happens next is she is taken under the wing of Neville's aunt Elizabeth who takes her to London and teaches her how to be a lady. Not in a Pygmalion sort of way, but Lily grows, learns and becomes confident in society. Neville loves her, but now she has the opportunity to meet him on a more equal footing, to let him love her for herself and not out of a so-called duty. It's complicated, but it all works. Meanwhile, there is the mystery of who Lily's real parents are -- and who is trying to kill her.
I found it a great read and look forward to reading more of Mary Balogh. Lily was sweet and innocent at first, sort of strange, but after she starts to become more comfortable in society I grew to like her even more, she did not seem to be so otherworldly once she is in London. You can't help feel sorry for her and for Neville, who I liked as well. He had such a shock in seeing her again and then wanting to have her as his wife, yet knowing deep down, she was overwhelmed at the Abbey and everything. He was noble to the core, and I liked him for that. Their love scenes were sweet and tender, nothing overtly graphic or steamy though, if that's what you're after. There are a lot of thoughts and imaginings in this book, quite a bit of analysis, as a situation like this deserves.
The book ended very well, albeit predicatably, coming full circle with a perfect happily ever after ending - a real keeper! I guessed who was who and her real parentage, it's not that difficult to figure out, but the best part of this book was the development of the characters and how they deal with their predicament and life. It doesn't hurt that everything works out with a fairy tale ending either! I highly recommend it for a quick read and distraction on the beach or in front of a cozy fire!